Claude Thomas Ramsey passed away peacefully on Monday, June 17, 2018 after a brief illness, surrounded by his loving family.
Claude won his first elected position 47 years ago as a third-generation strawberry farmer. His humility and dry but effective humor became his hallmark over the years. In recounting his first election as a state representative, he said, “People were voting more against my opponent than they were for me.”
The approach he took in public life, which he termed as “easing along,” defined his many successes in getting things done, knowing how to count to five (the votes required for a county commission win but he usually kept a sixth vote in his pocket) and a common-sense approach.
When President George W. Bush visited Chattanooga in 2007, he remarked that in Texas, county mayors are called county judges and “I just might call you “Judge.” Claude’s response was, “Mr. President, you can call me whatever you want to call me.”
Hamilton County voters elected him to the county commission, Assessor of Property, delegate to the State Constitutional Convention and County Mayor, where he served for 16 years. He was proud of the county’s bond rating that signaled great fiscal management of taxpayer dollars. His support for public education led to an education summit that included early education programs, laptop computers in classrooms and new schools. Read 20, the program designed to have parents read to their children 20 minutes every day, came from his education initiatives and time spent with his granddaughter so she and other children would have a greater path for success.
As county mayor, economic development was a priority. He secured funds for the Hamilton County incubator that has launched a number of start-up businesses. Working with both Chattanooga Mayors Bob Corker and Ron Littlefield, he was a catalyst in securing and making site-ready the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant facility that led to Volkswagen “choosing Chattanooga” for its North American production.
In 2011 Governor Bill Haslam asked Claude to be deputy governor and he decided it was time for a new challenge. “Claude is a smart, wise counselor, who is great at working out problems either huge and visible or little things,” Governor Haslam said.
And there is another important part of Claude’s life – his wife, Jan; being a proud father to his son, Rich, and his daughter, Stacy, and a doting grandfather to his grandchildren Maddi, Meredith, Macy, John Ross and Claudia. In his office in the State Capitol, he had three photos – an aerial view of Enterprise South and pictures of Jan, his son, his daughter and five grandchildren.
Claude was comfortable in his own skin. Even after he entered public service, he still grew millions of strawberry plants each year as well as a few tomato plants. Just a few weeks ago, he mentioned going up the road in Harrison and buying a few strawberries because “that is what you do at this time of year.”
He was preceded in death by his parents, Tom and Irene Ramsey; sisters, Betty Cofer, and Emma Lee Johnson.
He is survived by his loving wife of 42 years, Jan Ramsey; children, Stacy (John) Schorr, Rich (Cara) Balthrop; sister, Dixie (Mike) Eiseman; grandchildren, Maddi, Meredith, Macy, John Ross, and Claudia.
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. at Bayside Baptist on Thursday, June 21, with Pastor Rheubin Tayor officiating. The family will receive friends prior to service from 12-2 p.m. A private family graveside will be held at Hamilton Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the American Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org or the Erlanger Children’s Hospital at 910 Blackford Street, Chattanooga, Tn. 37403.
Please visit www.heritagechattanooga.com to share words of comfort to the family.
The family will receive friends from 4-8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20, at Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Road.